Oak Ridge High School Orchestra was established in the 1970 by Mr. Edgar Meyer, Sr. and was directed by Ms. Jenifer van Tol from 1988-2014. Dr. J.D. Phillips began his tenure as orchestra director in 2014 making him the 3rd director in the programs 50-year history.
Dr. Phillips earned his Bachelors of Music Performance (Summa Cum Laude) in string bass from Mississippi Valley State University in 2003 and his Master of Music Education in Strings in 2006 and a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from Boston University in 2017. In 2018, he was recognized as one of the top music educators in America by the Country Music Association and received the Teacher of Excellence Award. Dr. Phillips has taught at every level of string music education from pre-k through the university level. In 2003, he founded the string program in Greenwood Public Schools in the Mississippi Delta. Based on his demonstrated successes in Mississippi, he was recruited to found the string program in Shelby County Schools in Memphis, Tennessee in 2006. By 2014, this string program was one of the most successful programs in Tennessee, earning superior ratings at regional, state, and national competitions. After a nationwide search, Dr. Phillips was named ORHS Orchestra Director in 2014. Dr. Phillips currently serves on the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association Board of Directors and on the Editorial Board for Tennessee Musician Magazine.
Under Dr. Phillips leadership, the ORHS Orchestra has performed and hosted master classes with Mark O’Connor and Rachel Barton Pine. Additionally, ORHS Orchestra has performed jointly with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra. ORHS Orchestra has earned Superior Ratings at ETSBOA Concert Festival and invitations to the TN State Concert Festival in 2016 and 2017. Additionally, they earned 2nd place in Annapolis, Maryland National Orchestra Competition in 2014, 1st place in the New York City National Orchestra Competition in 2015, and 1st place in the Disney World Orlando National Orchestra Competition in 2016, 2nd place in Chicago in 2017, and 1st place in Universal Studios in 2018. Under Dr. Phillips leadership, ORHS Orchestra has placed over 40 students in All-State Tennessee Orchestra from years 2014-2019, including 3 All-National musicians. Dr. Phillips research in conjunction with Boston University led to the creation of a innovative orchestra class called Fusion Music. This non-traditional orchestra class focuses on non-classical literature and collaborative music composition. This class has been featured in several news articles and the class has performed live on the legendary Blueplate Special program on WDVX radio.